Writers worry a lot about theft and plagiarism. They really don't need to; theft of unpublished work is so rare as to be functionally nonexistent. It's not till your work is published--i.e., exposed to a wide audience--that the issue of plagiarism comes into play.
Over the past few months, a couple of contests have certainly been exposed to a wide audience: the Sobol Contest and Gather.com's First Chapters Writing Competition. So maybe it's not surprising that someone has decided to do a little borrowing. What do you get when you take Gather.com's first three chapters concept and combine it with Sobol's excessive entry fee and unpleasant stipulations for winners? Premiere Fiction, a contest that invites initial submission of the first three chapters, has an entry fee of $125 (no, that's not a typo), and takes publication rights to the winners' manuscripts.
(On the other hand, maybe I'm being too hard on these guys. After all, if they'd seen the Sobol discussion, they probably wouldn't be charging $125, right?)
Publication will be through the contest's sponsor, Terracopiae Press, a practically nonexistent "traditional" publishing company (according to Amazon, it has published just one book) that offers a three-year contract. The wording of the Rules and Regulations ("This competition retains all the book publishing rights to the winning entry of each genre in the United States") suggests that this may be an offer the winner can't refuse.
Also not reassuring: there's no contest timeline. No entry deadline, no schedule for notifications or announcements. If you enter this contest, you have no benchmarks with which to track the contest's progress, and no way to hold the contest sponsor accountable.
Terracopiae has apparently been soliciting contest entries by means of that tried and true publicity method, spam. Here's their description of the contest:
We at Terracopiae Press are looking for a few good books! Right now, we are holding our Premiere Fiction contest for finished, unpublished manuscripts in several genre.
Why is it worth your while to submit to our contest? The obvious answer is that the first prize winner in each genre will recieve a publishing contract for the submitted winning work. Your book could be the next winner to be placed on bookstore shelves! Of course, there are also second and third place prizes within each genre that are targeted at authors who are prepared to publish. These prizes are to help you get there.
Not enough? Are you still wondering why you should submit your work? Every person who submits their work WILL get a response and real feedback from our panel of readers. They include teachers, editors, publishers, librarians, bookstore owners, readers groups, and individual readers from around the country. This is YOUR reading public. You will get feedback from them on YOUR book.
Don't you all want to run right out and enter?